Mother is set in the 1930's and deals with a woman's difficult life, low self-esteem, and sense of having inherited tragedy and misfortune from her mother. Even though she finally marries, and unexpectedly conceives long after her husband and she had given up trying, her outcome is destined to be unhappy. She goes into premature labor, and gives birth to a stillborn child.

When she finally wakes up, she is weak, and cannot remember anything about the delivery. Her paternalistic physician, her husband, and the hospital staff withhold from her the news that her child has died. One night, in her frustration and need, and believing that her child is in the nursery "in the basement," she searches the basement corridors for her child. Outside the morgue she begins to hemorrhage and despite the efforts of her physician, she dies.


This story explores the idea that women's lives are inherited from their mothers and their destinies are not their own to control. In class, students who rewrote this story strove to create happier endings.

Primary Source

Bread Loaf Anthology of Contemporary Short Stories


University Press of New England

Place Published

Hanover, N.H.




Robert Pack & Jay Parini

Page Count